Originally created 03/15/04

South Carolina Senate candidates mostly wealthy



GREENVILLE, S.C. -- The candidates for U.S. Senate from South Carolina are mostly better off than the people they hope to represent. Some of those seeking the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, D-S.C., are even multimillionaires.

According to the public financial disclosure report that candidates are required to submit to the clerk of the Senate, two candidates reported assets of more than a million dollars and one candidate who asked for a filing extension is expected to be in the millionaire club.

Three candidates reported incomes and assets that make them wealthier than the average South Carolinian. Reports weren't available for two candidates.

But wealth alone doesn't guarantee a win, said Bruce Ransom, Clemson University political scientist. Winning "has a lot to do with who the person is, their personal background, the strength of their commitment and ideas that resonate with voters," he said. "If those things are taken care of, (wealth) won't be much of an issue."

According to an analysis of the financial disclosure reports by The Greenville News, Republican Thomas Ravenel is the wealthiest of the candidates filing with assets reported between $24.5 million and $164 million. Democratic Education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum, who is married to businessman Sam Tenenbaum, reported assets of $2.67 million to $7.57 million in stocks, bonds and mutual funds.

Ravenel reported income of $705,417 to $4.73 million and Tenenbaum reported earning $170,325 to $348,465.

Former Republican South Carolina Gov. David Beasley is expected to be a millionaire based on his family's banking business and land holdings. But because he entered the race comparatively late, he requested a filing extension.

Former Republican Attorney General Charlie Condon of Sullivans Island, reported assets from $244,040 to $1.06 million in stock and mutual funds and income from $37,118 to $61,038. His $92,000 state salary ended in January 2003.

Republican U.S. Rep. Jim DeMint reported assets of $127,003 to $381,000 in IRA's, money market funds and insurance, and income of $164,409 to $181,500, including his congressional salary of $154,700.

Mark McBride, restaurant owner and Republican mayor of Myrtle Beach, reported assets of $102,003 to $281,000 in stock and income of $58,428 to $59,031.

Orly Benny Davis, a Bluffton businesswoman who announced as a candidate on Feb. 10, had no report on file and neither did Democrat Marcus Belk of Camden.

Forty of the nation's 100 senators reported basic assets of $1 million or more on their 2003 reports to the clerk of the Senate. Neither Hollings, nor first-term Republican Lindsey Graham made the millionaires' list.

Information from: The Greenville News, http://www.greenvillenews.com